Farmer Focus: David Shepherdson hopes for better weather in May

David Shepherdson and his father rent about 182ha (450 acres) of arable land, mainly thin limestone, on the Dawnay Estates near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, They grow wheat, barley and oilseed rape. He also undertakes contract work including all spraying on another 100ha (250-acre) farm.

I’m hoping the weather takes a turn for the better as we enter May. Everything from light showers to hailstorms has made spraying and fertiliser spraying a very stop-start affair, but we are just about caught up for now.

The wheat and winter barley have had all their nitrogen at 140 and 110 units/acre, respectively, and I’ve just gone round them again with the T1 sprays plus growth regulator. We’ve also put in about 10ha (4 acres) of fodder beet for feeding our ewes.

The next job is to establish the Wykeham Estate’s game cover. This is mainly down to maize now, which keeps it much simpler when it comes to moving the drill around the 30 or so different plots.

We have to keep a very keen eye on the prices we charge for contract operations, especially the heavy working ones like drilling. Gone are the days when you could fix a price for the whole season. With costs of diesel and metal wearing parts escalating, these costs inevitably have to be passed on to the customer and can no longer be absorbed.

The annual crop assurance inspection has been and gone again, with all the boxes ticked to show that we are competent to farm. I do feel an overhaul of the whole system is long overdue, perhaps a tiered structure being more appropriate.

Many farmers have such an obviously high standard that a biannual inspection would be more than adequate, whereas those who continue to drag their heels may be spurred on by some unannounced inspections. Stronger penalties need to be imposed on those who show little inclination to improve their standards, to make the scheme more meaningful for those of us who do comply. I would be most interested to hear readers’ thoughts on this contentious issue.

David Shepherdson

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